5 Practical Steps to Draw a Detailed City Skyline at Night
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Gather the right art supplies
  2. Sketch the basic outline of the city skyline
  3. Add in details and depth to the buildings
  4. Paint the night sky
  5. Add the final touches

Imagine a city skyline, silhouetted against the velvety darkness of night. Skyscrapers reaching for the stars, their windows twinkling like a thousand tiny eyes. Now, imagine bringing that scene to life on paper. Yes, you! You're about to learn how to draw a detailed city skyline at night. Don't worry if you've never done it before or if you're not a Picasso. With these five practical steps, you'll be on your way to creating your own masterpiece. So, let's get started!

Gather the right art supplies

Before we dive into the drawing process, it's important to have the right tools at hand. Trust me, having the right set of art supplies makes a world of difference. So here's what you'll need to draw a detailed city skyline at night:


Start with a good quality drawing paper. It's your canvas, after all. A medium-weight, acid-free paper is ideal as it stands up to erasing and doesn't yellow over time. You could opt for a sketch pad or a loose sheet, depending on your preference.


Next on our list are pencils. Specifically, you'll need a range of graphite pencils. Why a range? Because different grades of pencils give you different shades of grey—perfect for creating contrast in your night city skyline. So pick up a set that includes a range from 4H (light grey) to 6B (dark grey).

Eraser and Sharpener

Don't forget your trusty eraser and sharpener. A soft eraser is perfect for getting rid of unwanted lines without damaging your paper. And a good sharpener helps maintain your pencils at the ideal point for detailed work.


For this project, you'll need some colors to bring your city skyline to life. You can use colored pencils, markers, or even watercolors, depending on the style you're going for. For a night scene, you'll definitely need shades of blue, black, and yellow for the night sky and building lights.

Now that you've gathered your art supplies, you're all set to start sketching your city skyline at night. Remember, the goal is not perfection, but progress. So, don't be afraid to make mistakes — they're just opportunities to learn and improve. Ready to move on to the next step?

Sketch the basic outline of the city skyline

Now that you're equipped with the right tools, let's dive into the actual drawing process. The first step in learning how to draw a detailed city skyline at night is to sketch the basic outline. This is your roadmap, the skeleton of your cityscape.

Decide on a Perspective

The first thing you need to decide on is the perspective. Will you be looking at your city from a distance or up close? From street level or from an aerial view? Each perspective gives a unique look to your drawing. For beginners, a straight-on, simple perspective might be the easiest to start with.

Draw the Horizon Line

Start your drawing by sketching a horizontal line across your paper. This will act as your horizon line, the imaginary line where the sky meets the ground or sea. The position of this line can help set the mood of your drawing. A high horizon line, for instance, gives the impression of looking up at the city, while a low one can make it seem like you're looking down on it from a height.

Sketch the Basic Shapes

Next, start to sketch the basic shapes of the buildings. Don't worry about the details yet, just focus on the overall forms. Most buildings can be simplified into rectangles, squares, or triangles. Try to vary the heights and widths of the buildings to create a more realistic and interesting skyline. Remember, cities are often messy and chaotic, so don't be afraid to overlap shapes and break up the monotony!

Already, you should start to see the bare bones of your city skyline taking shape on your paper. It's exciting, isn't it? Keep in mind, this is just the basic outline. We'll be adding in the details and depth in the next step. But for now, give yourself a pat on the back. You're one step closer to learning how to draw a detailed city skyline at night!

Add in details and depth to the buildings

With the basic shapes of the skyline in place, it's time to breathe life into your cityscape. Adding details and depth to your buildings is a crucial step in creating a detailed city skyline at night. This is where your city starts to come alive, where it gains personality and character.

Add Windows and Doors

Start by adding windows and doors to your buildings. Use different shapes and sizes to create variety and interest. But remember, you're drawing a city skyline at night, so not every window needs to be lit. Some can be dark, hinting at empty rooms or sleeping inhabitants. This can add a real dynamic to your drawing, making it feel more like a real city after dark.

Create Depth with Shading

Next, add some depth to your buildings with shading. Consider where your light source is — in this case, it’s likely to be the moon or streetlights. Shade the opposite side of your buildings to create the illusion of three-dimensionality. Shading can make a huge difference in bringing your cityscape to life, giving it a sense of depth and solidity.

Include Architectural Details

Finally, don't forget to include some architectural details. Things like rooflines, arches, balconies, or decorative elements can really make your buildings stand out. You don't have to draw every single detail, especially on buildings that are further away. But adding a few here and there can give your cityscape a sense of realism and specificity.

By adding these details and creating depth, you're really starting to see how to draw a detailed city skyline at night. But don't rush your progress. Take your time with each building, enjoying the process of bringing it to life. Remember, it's not just about the final product, but the journey there as well. Happy drawing!

Paint the night sky

Now that your city buildings have begun to take shape, let's turn our attention upwards. It's time to paint the night sky, an essential element when you're figuring out how to draw a detailed city skyline at night. A well-rendered night sky can add drama, mood, and a sense of time to your cityscape.

Choose Your Colors

First, decide on the colors for your night sky. You might think, "Isn't the night sky just black?" In reality, the night sky is a blend of many colors. Deep blues, purples, blacks, and even greens can all be part of a night sky. Mixing these colors together can create a more realistic and interesting night sky.

Create a Gradient

Next, create a gradient effect. The sky is typically lighter at the horizon and gets darker as it reaches the top of your page. Start with the lightest color at the horizon line and gradually blend in the darker colors as you move upwards. This will give your night sky a sense of depth and realism.

Add Stars

Finally, don't forget to add stars to your night sky. Use a thin brush or a white pen to dot small points of light across your sky. But remember, less is more. Don't overcrowd your sky with stars. And vary the size and brightness of your stars for a more realistic look.

Painting the night sky can be a calming, meditative process. It's a chance to let your creativity flow and add a touch of magic to your cityscape. So, have fun with it! And remember, a night sky is never truly black, but a canvas filled with countless colors and stars.

Add the final touches

As the saying goes, the devil's in the details. We're at the final stretch of our journey on how to draw a detailed city skyline at night. It’s time to add those crucial finishing touches that can make your artwork truly stand out.

Light Up the Buildings

Let's start by adding lights to the buildings. These tiny specks of yellow, white, or even shades of blue can make your cityscape come alive in the night. Using a fine brush or a pen, dot windows onto the buildings. Remember, not every window needs to be lit up. Variation helps bring a sense of realism to your cityscape.

Enhance the Sky

Next, consider enhancing your night sky. Add a moon or perhaps a shooting star. These little details can add a bit of whimsy to your drawing, making it more than just a city skyline.

Reflections and Shadows

Finally, consider the play of light in your drawing. If there's a body of water in your cityscape, add reflections of the buildings and lights. Don't forget to add shadows to the buildings too. They add depth and make your cityscape look three dimensional.

These final touches might seem small, but they can make a huge difference in your drawing. They bring the cityscape to life, adding depth, realism, and a touch of magic. So, keep your eyes on the details and remember, every light, every shadow, every star plays a part in your masterpiece.

If you enjoyed learning about drawing detailed city skylines at night and want to explore a related topic, check out the workshop 'Intro to Photographing at Night' by Caleb Stein. This workshop will teach you how to capture stunning night-time cityscapes through photography, enhancing your artistic skills and providing a new perspective on nighttime city skylines.